Make Your Resume and Cover Letter Stand Out With Word Choice
It’s approaching the time when college students are shifting from midterms to spring break. Before you know it, summer will be right at our toes (I know, I don’t really believe that right now either, but I’m just going to keep telling myself that. So as our mentality is changing with the cycles of the school year, we have to focus our attention to internships and jobs for the summer (or perhaps beyond that if you’re graduating). While we have written many articles about the internship process and how to make your resume awesome, I’d like to focus our attention briefly on the use of words in resumes and cover letters.
Simply having a sheet of paper with all of your wonderful accomplishments listed on it will not garuntee that you’ll stand out in a crowd. However, by carefully selecting your words, you can be sure that your resume or cover letter will not blend in with others.
Avoid Overused Phrases
- Team player
- Excellent communication skills
- Strong work ethic
- Problem solver
- Extensive experience
- Met or exceeded expectations
Check out the Lifehacker articles for a full list of the many words to avoid. The problem with using these generic phrases is that they don’t prove anything. They simply prove that you can write the phrases on a page. This idea leads us into the next thing you can do to boost your resume…
As all of my writing teachers and professors have always told me, you should show not tell. Although this advice was mainly used in terms of creative writing, it also applies to how you word your resume. The problem with the phrases above is that they only tell potential employers what you are capable of. Anyone can say they are a “team player” or have “excellent communication skills” (ugh, that one is the ones I hate the absolute most).
However, if you give specific examples of what you did in a certain previous job you believe makes you qualified for this new job, then say it. Instead of saying, “I am responsible,” illustrate that adjective by saying, “I managed the entire crew of blah, blah, blah, and did the following tasks.” You shouldn’t have to say you have excellent communication skills; your resume should clearly demonstrate that. So instead of using meaningless, overused phrases, use specific examples that actually show what you are capable of.
Research the Position You are Applying For
This tip applies mostly to your cover letter. In your cover letter, you must show that you have read and understood the position for which you are applying. Use specific examples from the position description. If the position wants someone who has expert knowledge of a computer program, make sure that you state the various projects you have completed with that program. Being specific and tailoring your cover letters to each employer will show that you are not only extremely interested in the position, but also that you have done your homework on the position, therefore putting you ahead of the game.
Do you have any tips on word choice in resumes or cover letters? Let us know in the comments!